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News, gossip and insight from PoliticsHome Editor Paul Waugh

The IDS of June

When I interviewed him earlier this year, Iain Duncan Smith was clearly proud of one of his ancestors who had triumphed over European foes.

Admiral Adam Duncan, who defeated the Dutch in the Battle of Camperdown in the Napoleonic Wars, used his guile to outwit a bigger enemy.

Today, IDS was in Berlin taking the fight to Europe as he delivered a new speech on just why nation states should be allowed to take control of their welfare systems.

You can read the speech in full HERE on PolHome, but the most eye-catching bits came near the end. The Work and Pensions Secretary talked about the need to end portability of child benefit, a change that would require amendments to EU law, and the need to reform freedom of movement.

He also underlined his determination to curb UK benefit claims for out of work migrants, with shorter time for claims and some new way of proving they qualify.

The key passage was this:

"In Britain, we do want to go further – the right to say to migrants that we require a much longer record of commitment before you get benefits...and shortening the duration of any benefit claim that is allowed...as well as looking again at the absurdity of paying family benefits to workers who have moved country, yet whose children remain back at home, at a rate that bears little relation to the level of benefits in the country where the children actually live."

It seems that rather than the current 3 month wait for EU migrants to claim benefit, followed by a 6 month limit on any benefit claimed (a 3 + 6 system), IDS is going to insist by the end of this year we have a three month limit on benefit claims by foreigners (3 + 3 instead). That's one change he thinks he can make without Brussels, but there are other bigger changes needed too.

I'm told the speech was fully cleared with No.10 beforehand, so we can take it that the PM and IDS are in alliance in demanding tougher curbs on EU benefit 'tourism'.

The issue of freedom of movement is very much a hot topic among ministers (many of whom agree with Boris that it's a fraud on the public to pretend we have control over migration), in particular over just where any red line can be drawn in an EU renegotiation.

One of the most interesting ideas floated by Theresa May (no wonder she's top of ConHome's future leader poll) and the PM of is curbing migration not just from new EU states but also from current EU states with a lower GDP than the UK. As IDS put it today: "This may have made sense when the EU was small collection of countries with a similar cost of living and GDP. Now, however, it is not sustainable."

But IDS also had a parting shot for his Berlin audience today, with a warning that many Tory backbenchers will echo:

"... if we fail to change, if we fail to heed the message from those who are clearly deeply disillusioned with the EU...then we run the risk of damaging the reputation of free movement altogether."

That seemed like a less than veiled threat that if Brussels won't agree to let the UK regain control, the Brexit door looks very much open to the British people.

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